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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 1. - 4/10 -
added further, "'Tis a woman that's put the mumplaster on his tongue, Sibley, and I bet you a hundred it's another man's wife."
Like many a speculator, Malachi Deely would have made no profit out of his bet in the end, for Shiel Crozier had had no trouble with the law, or with another man's wife, nor yet with any single maid--not yet; though there was now Kitty Tynan in his path. Yet he had had trouble. There was hint of it in his occasional profound abstraction; but more than all else in the fact that here he was, a gentleman, having lived his life for over four years past as a sort of horse-expert, overseer, and stud- manager for Terry Brennan, the absentee millionaire. In the opinion of the West, "big-bugs" did not come down to this kind of occupation unless they had been roughly handled by fate or fortune.
"Talk? Watch me now, he talks like a testimonial in a frame," said Malachi Deely on the day this tale opens, to John Sibley, the gambling young farmer who, strange to say, did well out of both gambling and farming.
"Words to him are like nuts to a monkey. He's an artist, that man is. Been in the circles where the band plays good and soft, where the music smells--fairly smells like parfumery," responded Sibley. "I'd like to get at the bottom of him. There's a real good story under his asbestos vest--something that'd make a man call for the oh-be-joyful, same as I do now."
After they had seen the world through the bottom of a tumbler Deely continued the gossip. "Watch me now, been a friend of dukes in England-- and Ireland, that Mr. James Gathorne Kerry, as any one can see; and there he is feelin' the hocks of a filly or openin' the jaws of a stud horse, age-hunting! Why, you needn't tell me--I've had my mind made up ever since the day he broke the temper of Terry Brennan's Inniskillen chestnut, and won the gold cup with her afterwards. He just sort of appeared out of the mist of the marnin', there bein' a divil's lot of excursions and conferences and holy gatherin's in Askatoon that time back, ostensible for the business which their names denote, like the Dioceesan Conference and the Pure White Water Society. That was their bluff; but they'd come herealong for one good pure white dioceesan thing before all, and that was to see the dandiest horse-racing which ever infested the West. Come--he come like that!"--Deely made a motion like a swoop of an aeroplane to earth--"and here he is buckin' about like a rough-neck same as you and me; but yet a gent, a swell, a cream della cream, that's turned his back on a lady--a lady not his own wife, that's my sure and sacred belief."
"You certainly have got women on the brain," retorted Sibley. "I ain't ever seen such a man as you. There never was a woman crossing the street on a muddy day that you didn't sprint to get a look at her ankles. Behind everything you see a woman. Horses is your profession, but woman is your practice."
"There ain't but one thing worth livin' for, and that's a woman," remarked Deely.
"Do you tell Mrs. Deely that?" asked Sibley.
"Watch me now, she knows. What woman is there don't know when her husband is what he is! And it's how I know that the trouble with James Gathorne Kerry is a woman. I know the signs. Divils me own, he's got 'em in his face."
"He's got in his face what don't belong here and what you don't know much about--never having kept company with that sort," rejoined Sibley.
"The way he lives and talks--'No, thank you, I don't care for anny thing,' says he, when you're standin' at the door of a friendly saloon, which is established by law to bespeak peace and goodwill towards men, and you ask him pleasant to step inside. He don't seem to have a single vice. Haven't we tried him? There was Belle Bingley, all frizzy hair and a kicker; we put her on to him. But he give her ten dollars to buy a hat on condition she behaved like a lady in the future--smilin' at her, the divil! And Belle, with temper like dinnemite, took it kneelin' as it were, and smiled back at him--her! Drink, women--nothin' seems to have a hold on him. What's his vice? Sure, then, that's what I say, what's his vice? He's got to have one; anny man as is a man has to have one vice."
"Bosh! Look at me," rejoined Sibley. "Drink women--nit! Not for me! I've got no vice. I don't even smoke."
"No vice? Begobs, yours has got you like a tire on a wheel! Vice--what do you call gamblin'? It's the biggest vice ever tuk grip of a man. It's like a fever, and it's got you, John, like the nail on your finger."
"Well, p'r'aps, he's got that vice too. P'r'aps J. G. Kerry's got that vice same as me."
"Annyhow, we'll get to know all we want when he goes into the witness box at the Logan murder trial next week. That's what I'm waitin' for, "Deely returned, with a grin of anticipation. "That drug-eating Gus Burlingame's got a grudge against him somehow, and when a lawyer's got a grudge against you it's just as well to look where y' are goin'. Burlingame don't care what he does to get his way in court. What set him against Kerry I ain't sure, but, bedad, I think it's looks. Burlingame goes in for lookin' like a picture in a frame--gold seals hangin' beyant his vestpocket, broad silk cord to his eye-glass, loose flowin' tie, and long hair-makes him look pretentuous and showy. But your 'Mr. Kerry, sir,' he don't have anny tricks to make him look like a doge from Veenis and all the eyes of the females battin' where'er he goes. Jealousy, John Sibley, me boy, is a cruil thing."
"Why is it you ain't jealous of him? There's plenty of women that watch you go down-town--you got a name for it, anyway," remarked Sibley maliciously.
Deely nodded sagely. "Watch me now, that's right, me boy. I got a name for it, but I want the game without the name, and that's why I ain't puttin' on anny airs--none at all. I depend on me tongue, not on me looks, which goes against me. I like Mr. J. G. Kerry. I've plenty dealin's with him, naturally, both of us being in the horse business, and I say he's right as a minted dollar as he goes now. Also, and behold, I'd take my oath he never done annything to blush for. His touble's been a woman--wayward woman what stoops to folly! I give up tryin' to pump him just as soon as I made up my mind it was a woman. That shuts a man's mouth like a poor-box.
"Next week's fixed for the Logan killin' case, is it?"
"Monday comin', for sure. I wouldn't like to be in Mr. Kerry's shoes. Watch me now, if he gives the, evidence they say he can give--the prasecution say it--that M'Mahon Gang behind Logan 'll get him sure as guns, one way or another."
"Some one ought to give Mr. Kerry the tip to get out and not give evidence," remarked Sibley sagely. Deely shook his head vigorously. "Begobs, he's had the tip all right, but he's not goin'. He's got as much fear as a canary has whiskers. He doesn't want to give evidence, he says, but he wants to see the "law do its work. Burlingame 'll try to make it out manslaughter; but there's a widow with children to suffer for the manslaughter, just as much as though it was murder, and there isn't a man that doesn't think murder was the game, and the grand joory had that idea too.
"Between Gus Burlingame and that M'Mahon bunch of horse-thieves, the stranger in a strange land 'll have to keep his eyes open, I'm thinkin'."
"Divils me darlin', his eyes are open all right," returned Deely.
"Still, I'd like to jog his elbow," Sibley answered reflectively. "It couldn't do any harm, and it might do good."
Deely nodded good-naturedly. "If you want to so bad as that, John, you've got the chance, for he's up at the Sovereign Bank now. I seen him leave the Great Overland Railway Bureau ten minutes ago and get away quick to the bank."
"What's he got on at the bank and the railway?"
"Some big deal, I guess. I've seen him with Studd Bradley."
"The Great North Trust Company boss?"
"On it, my boy, on it--the other day as thick as thieves. Studd Bradley doesn't knit up with an outsider from the old country unless there's reason for it--good gold-currency reasons."
"A land deal, eh?" ventured Sibley. "What did I say--speculation, that's his vice, same as mine! P'r'aps that's what ruined him. Cards, speculation, what's the difference? And he's got a quiet look, same as me."
Deely laughed loudly. "And bursts out same as you! Quiet one hour like a mill-pond or a well, and then--swhish, he's blazin'! He's a volcano in harness, that spalpeen."
"He's a volcano that doesn't erupt when there's danger," responded Sibley. "It's when there's just fun on that his volcano gets loose. I'll go wait for him at the bank. I got a fellow-feeling for Mr. Kerry. I'd like to whisper in his ear that he'd better be lookin' sharp for the M'Mahon Gang, and that if he's a man of peace he'd best take a holiday till after next week, or get smallpox or something."
The two friends lounged slowly up the street, and presently parted near the door of the bank. As Sibley waited, his attention was drawn to a window on the opposite side of the street at an angle from themselves. The light was such that the room was revealed to its farthest corners, and Sibley noted that three men were evidently carefully watching the bank, and that one of the men was Studd Bradley, the so-called boss. The others were local men of some position commercially and financially in the town. Sibley did not give any sign that he noticed the three men, but he watched carefully from under the rim of his hat. His imagination, however, read a story of consequence in the secretive vigilance of the three, who evidently thought that, standing far back in the room, they could not be seen.
Presently the door of the bank opened, and Sibley saw Studd Bradley lean forward eagerly, then draw back and speak hurriedly to his companions, using a gesture of satisfaction.
"Something damn funny there!" Sibley said to himself, and stepped forward to Crozier with a friendly exclamation. Crozier turned rather impatiently, for his face was aflame with some exciting reflection. At this moment his eyes were the deepest blue that could be imagined--an almost impossible colour, like that of the Mediterranean when it reflects the perfect sapphire of the sky. There was something almost wonderful in their expression. A woman once said as she looked at a picture of Herschel, whose eyes had the unworldly gaze of the great dreamer looking beyond this sphere, "The stars startled him." Such a look was in Crozier's eyes now, as though he was seeing the bright end of a long road, the desire of his soul.
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